Student company kicked off UA Mall
A group of UA students representing the Internet company Universityave.com was kicked off the UA Mall Wednesday despite written permission to be there because it is affiliated with a competitor of the U of A Bookstore.
The students were selling their "e card," which can be used to receive discounts and special services at many local businesses.
The Universityave.com representatives were asked to remove their table and leave the mall around 2:30 p.m. after already having sold cards. Students who reserved cards on Wednesday were supposed to be able to get them yesterday at their stand.
"We couldn't get those cards to the students - it just makes it more difficult," said Jesse Wellener, CEO of Universityave.com.
Universityave.com promoters were removed because they were passing out stickers and flyers of the BigWords.com logo. BigWords.com is an on-line textbook store that sells books across the country at discount prices.
BigWords is a partner of Universityave.com and provides support for their site. The company also collaborates with MP3.com, drkoop.com and Virgin Records.
"When you're just a bunch of students, of course you're going to accept help from a big company like BigWords," Wellener said. "We were struggling at the time, and since they are a company who caters to students, it was a good move for us."
While Universityave.com does not compete with the bookstore, its affiliation with BigWords may keep them from being able to sell on the Mall again.
"The bookstore has always had this attitude that they have eminent domain over everything," Wellener said.
For a group or individual to sell a product on the mall, approval in the form of many signatures are required, including one from the U of A Bookstore, which Universityave.com received.
"They had gone through the process and had permission to be there, but they had logos from BigWords," said Diane Newman, procurement and contracting services office specialist. "You can't have a direct competitor with the bookstore on the mall."
Universityave.com received the bookstore's signature, but Newman said bookstore officials did not know BigWords would be advertised.
Debby Shively, senior program coordinator for the bookstore, said while she usually signs mall reservations, she could not remember if she approved Universityave.com's request.
But Shively added that the affiliation with BigWords would not be allowed under the bookstore's regulations.
"There is a university policy that, on the mall, bookstore competitors are not allowed," she said.
Officials from Universityave.com were not required to display the BigWords.com logo, but they felt it would be an appropriate show of gratitude.
"It was just professional courtesy, they've helped us a lot so it seemed like the right thing to do," Wellener said.